Doreen: congratulations on your new position with the ADO. This column is dedicated to you, provided you contact me when Crissi is 18.
-- by Crissi Sweeny
It stared at me, silently challenging me; taunting me with its red eye, it screamed at me to play.
Its eye lit up as I turned on the light.
It silently laughed at me as I stepped up to the line - not believing I could do it.
The darts soared out of my hand, hitting the mark!
The darts silently cheered in their victory over the dart board; and the dart board knew then that it had been beat.
I was impressed the moment I first read the little poem above. I was even more impressed when I learned that its author, Crissi Sweeny (daughter of darters Doreen and Darrell Berry) was just 14 years old at the time she wrote it.
Actually, Crissi's writing did more than just impress me. It inspired me. And let me tell you, I remember quite distinctly the last time a girl Crissi's age got me inspired. I was in college. I thought she was eighteen. Well, I digress.
There is one odd thing about Crissi's effort at personification -- to assign human attributes to inanimate objects. It's something about the "voice" - it just doesn't quite capture the banter that's so familiar in the bars I frequent. On the other hand, Crissi's teacher at Davis Middle School in Hampton, Virginia almost certainly wouldn't have awarded her an "A" if Crissi had written her poem like this:
-- by Dartoid
It starid up at me, uhhh, silent challenginigg me;
tauntigg me wid its rid eye, uhhh, it screamid at me t'play. Lee me lone!
Its eye lit up as ah' turnid on de lite.
It silent laughid at me when ah' steppid up t' de line - not beliebigg ah' cudd does it.
De darts soarid out of my hand, uhhh, hittigg de mark! Doihh, COOL!
De darts silent cheehid in deir bictory obeh da, uhhh, dartboard;
'n da, uhhh, damn dartboard knowed den dat it had been whup'.
Yep, no doubt about it, Crissi would have been suckin' on a big, fat "F" if she'd turned that in. She'd have blown her spell-checker to smithereens. And, she'd probably have been grounded from doing her favorite thing: "hanging out and going places with my friends" which, I'm pretty sure, is actually secret girl-code for "flirting with boys when my parents aren't around".
Anyway, I was honestly struck with this kid's skill with a pen. Her teacher says "write a poem" and Crissi strings together a succinct seventy-nine words that capture the very essence of our sport. I say this in all seriousness, having once been given a similar task by my eighth grade English teacher, Miss Fitch. "Personify your favorite food" was the homework assignment and I turned in the following:
The Hot Dog
-- by Paul Jay Seigel
Okay, that's a lie. But I did have a teacher named Miss Fitch. She taught algebra. And I WAS truly taken by Crissi's writing ability.
I contacted Doreen and Darrell immediately and asked if I could make reference to Crissi in one of my columns. I told them how her poem had inspired me to write about personification and our sport. I asked if I could get together with Crissi and talk. Maybe over a few beers. Darrell didn't think this was the best of ideas and suggested calmly, as is Darrell' s way, that I (I'll try to quote him accurately) "stick my head in a toilet"
Okay, that's a lie too. What I did do was begin a little e-mail discussion with Doreen and, then, via Doreen with Crissi, to find out all I could. Here's what I found out, and it's a shocker: Crissi is actually Howie Dirks.
Okay, that's another lie. Jeez.
The truth is Crissi Sweeny IS one very talented kid who, I am sure, has never even sipped a beer. I sure know I didn't in high school.
Anyone who has seen her stroke a dart knows that someday she's going to have the stuff to kick butt just as her mother has for years.
It turns out that Crissi is also an excellent artist and an aspiring model - at present preparing for the Model Search America regional in Washington, D.C. Which reminds me: Hey Darrell, send me the address of where this competition is being held!
Crissi's favorite musical group is Limp Bizkit (which would be a great name for a new brand of soft-tip darts). Her favorite movie is Little Nikky. And, her favorite book is The Hellion Bride. You know you're getting old if, like me, you have never, EVER, heard of ANY of these things.
Anyway, inspired by Crissi, I sat down to tackle my own personification assignment. Here are three little ditties that do not contain ANY bad, bad words.
My Name Ain't Rodney
I don't get no respect. I get stepped on. Kicked.
They think they can walk all over me because I'm not a star, like my friends.
I can't fly. I don't hang under the spotlight, all colorful and enticing.
But where would they be without me? I was installed with precision. To serve.
But most of them are idiots - they can't even pronounce my name.
Hey dummy! OCHE! That's my name and I'm proud of it. I'm not just some wimpy old line.
OCHE! Remember that. And get your dirty feet off of me!
Grabbin', Gropin', Rubbin' and Squeezin'
I hate it when they clutch me with their sweaty paws, grabbing and groping, holding me tight.
Night after night. Again and again. They turn their backs and walk away.
Then it starts again.
They press me against the hard board under the bright light.
They rub me up and down, squeezing me - touching me all over with their fat fingers.
When they're finally finished they toss me onto my little ledge and I can relax.
Until the next game needs to be chalked.
My friend and I have a regular spot at the bar. We meet every night to watch the guys throw darts.
We wait for them to come to us between games - it's our favorite time.
They caress my neck with their strong hands; they press their lips against my mouth.
With nervous fingers, they peel off what I am wearing.
Some of them like to push their butts against my friend's smooth middle.
But it's all over too soon -- when the bartender comes to replace me with a fresh bottle and dumps me in the trash.
At least my friend gets to go back again after her butts have been tossed out and her middle swiped with a damp rag to remove the ashes.
My point? Why does there always have to be a point?!
You may have read my recent highly statistical, MIT-level, dissertation about safety and the sport of darts. My conclusion, of course, was that darts is extremely safe, and that baseball players are (insert bad, bad word here). Later that night I stabbed myself during league while performing the complex task of pulling my darts from the board, thus casting doubt on half of my theory.
Over the years I have written about the camaraderie and the spirit in which we gather ... about the beauty of the handshake with which we start and end each match. I have marveled at how somehow, between handshakes a few years ago, the members of an opposing team actually managed to get all four tires off of my car.
I have written about the simplicity, even the grace, of what we do - even though we sometimes do it barefoot, in beer-stained shirts. I have written about the color and the rhythm of darts -- the poetry of motion, sights, sounds, smells and experience.
What I haven't done, nearly so brilliantly as Crissi, is define the purity of our sport. Crissi Sweeny has captured the essence of our addiction -- the almost primal allure of the game that, like an illicit drug, draws each of us back to the line, night after night after night.
The board . silently challenging . taunting . screaming . laughing . not believing . knew then that it had been beat.
Yep, sometimes, perfection is possible.
From the Field,